published Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

Plumbers warm to frozen pipe crisis

BY THE NUMBERS

Here is the approxomate cost to fix a broken pipe, not including parts:

* TJ's Plumbing -- $85

* Mr. Rooter -- Varies depending on job

* Roto Rooter -- $85/ hour

* Scenic City -- $89-109/hour

* JBS Plumbing -- $70/hour

* Keefe Plumbing -- $141 for first hour, $105 thereafter

* Reese Plumbing -- $100-150/hour

* Mountain City -- $60/hour

* Neighborhood Plumbing -- $75

Winter temperatures hovering in the teens are heating up the plumbing business this week, according to Jeff Logan, master plumber and owner of Scenic City Plumbing.

"For the weather-related frozen and burst pipes, we had four yesterday and we had three today," said Mr. Logan. "When it gets down to the low teens and single digits, that's when we get 'em."

Mr. Logan believes homeowners' plumbing problems likely will continue this weekend, when even lower temperatures will play havoc with Chattanooga's networks of pipes, some of which lack insulation.

The true cost of Chattanooga's deep freeze won't become apparent until pipes begin to thaw, according to Tommy Reese, owner of Reese Plumbing Co.

"There are two things that are gonna happen. It's going to unthaw or it's gonna burst. You have a 50/50 shot," Mr. Reese said.

He received about 175 burst-pipe calls last year, but anticipates that this year could be even busier.

"If we truly have a really bad freeze and pipes start bursting, there's not enough plumbers in this town to take care of it," he said.

Prices for fixing a broken pipe range from $60-$150 per hour depending on the location of the breakage, the number of workers required for the job and the amount of equipment needed to fix or replace the pipe.

Mr. Logan recommends leaving the water running to prevent pipes from freezing.

"Don't just leave it on the cold, leave it in the middle, so the cold and hot are both flowing," he said. "It's best to do it the furthest away from the water heater."

He also advised homeowners to close off foundation vents with a piece of cardboard or insulation, and ensure pipes are properly shielded from the wind.

Jon Bartlett, a manager at Neighborhood Plumbing Services whose crews fixed 18 broken pipes in the last two days, recommends calling a plumber to thaw pipes the moment they are frozen to prevent damage.

"The quicker you get them unthawed, the less chance there's gong to be for breaks. Water expands at 85 psi, so the longer they're exposed, the more pressure it puts on the pipes," he said.

about Ellis Smith...

Ellis Smith joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in January 2010 as a business reporter. His beat includes the flooring industry, Chattem, Unum, Krystal, the automobile market, real estate and technology. Ellis is from Marietta, Ga., and has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication at the University of West Georgia. He previously worked at UTV-13 News, Carrollton, Ga., as a producer; at the The West Georgian, Carrollton, Ga., as editor; and at the Times-Georgian, Carrollton, ...

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jgaddis7 said...

Great job, Ellis! This is very informative. Hmmm, if I start Project Frozen-Pipes Prevention, will I feel guilty for wasting water? ;)

January 6, 2010 at 10:59 p.m.
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